Shocking $90-million damages

LEGAL VIEWPOINTS

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This $90 million damages including legal costs is said to be the biggest pay out in the history of human rights abuses for more than 1900 detainees in Manus Island detention facilities. This will not stop other detainees suffering from similar horrific claims of psychological trauma, physical illness, self-harm and deaths who are held in Nauru or even whilst in Australia. Human rights abuses are not confined to overseas detention facilities and if valid claims are made, these can be a subject of another or more litigation.

Lead plaintiff Kamasaee said, “I came to Australia seeking peace but was sent to Manus which was hell”. The government through the Minister’s Office, however, denied such claims and said, “Strongly refuted the detainee’s claim and a settlement was not an admission of liability”.

It is uncommon for any settlement to waive privacy or confidentiality, but in this case, the plaintiffs were able to disclose some of the terms or conditions of the agreement and this shows how strong their position against the government and contractors who failed the duty of care in the management of facility involving the detainees or plaintiffs in this case. They suffered horrific unimaginable experiences.

There is no doubt that politicians both from the Labor and Coalition government are responsible for this horrific experiences of asylum seekers culminating in death for three detainees and for other untold miseries. They continued to be detained beyond the period of sentences if criminally convicted for crimes and yet these asylum seekers or refugees never have or had conviction of crime for which they are detained – some are indefinitely and for no reason other than their cases have not been resolved as required. The government seems to use this as an excuse for continued detention even those innocent children. This is appalling attitude or approach to our refugee program or part of it.

As asylum seeker or refugee, one of the basic reasons for applying for a protection visa is that the applicant has well-founded fear of being persecuted by reason of race, nationality, membership or political belief and other convention-related grounds. For this reason, they could not return to their country of origin. Yet instead of being protected from persecution or unlawful acts, they become the soft target of the government or policy that undermines health and security or safety. This is an appalling attitude that we show to the world and it has to stop.

Mr. Dutton has a responsibility to make some changes right after he took over the portfolio from previous government or from Mr. Scott Morrison. He did not do it and should not blame the previous government. If he is not able to improve the image of his department, he should resign or go to another office suitable for him.

Time to say goodbye, Peter.

(For comments or feedback, email cbulos@imemlawyers.com.au)

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